PASTOR T. O. BANSO
“He also spoke this parable: ‘A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down’” (Luke 13:6-9 New King James Version).
Luke 13:6-9 is one of the parables that Jesus spoke during His earthly ministry. The problem with the fig tree in this scripture is the same problem with the fig tree in Matthew 21:18-19. The passage says, “Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, ‘Let no fruit grow on you ever again.’ Immediately the fig tree withered away” (New King James Version). They were unfruitful.
Wild grapes are like no fruits
In the case of the vineyard in Isaiah 5:1-7, its grapevines bore fruits, but they were wild grapes. Wild grapes mean bad grapes or stinking or worthless things. “Now let me sing to my Well-beloved A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard on a very fruitful hill. He dug it up and cleared out its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, and also made a winepress in it; so He expected it to bring forth good grapes, But it brought forth wild grapes” (Isaiah 5:1-2 New King James Version).
The wild grapes in that scripture refer to Israel. Having bad fruit is not much different from having no fruit. Bad fruit is just like the waters of Marah which the children of Israel found after going for three days without water. Though they were thirsty, they couldn’t drink that water until it was healed (Exodus 15:22-23).
A fruitless tree
Bad fruit is like having no fruit at all. One can say that the fig trees in Luke 13 and Matthew 21 were not so much different from the vines in Isaiah 5. Of what use is a tree that does not bear fruits? And of what use is a tree that bears bad fruits that cannot be eaten? What God is looking for are good fruits. He is not looking for a barren tree just as He is not looking for bad fruits. It is also significant that the same judgment, death, befell the barren fig tree and the vineyard with bad fruits.
The tree determines the fruit. “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:17-18 New King James Version). That is why the Bible says any tree that does not bear good fruits will be cut down and burnt. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (verses 19-20 New King James Version).
Earlier in Matthew 3:10-11, the Bible said a similar thing. “And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (New King James Version). The Bible also says in Luke 3:9, “And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (New King James Version).
It could be seen that it is the responsibility of the tree to bear fruits. And for the tree to bear good fruits, the tree itself must be good. The trees that bear bad fruits are cut down and thrown into the fire. Of what use is their continuous existence without bearing good fruits? “And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will lay it waste; It shall not be pruned or dug, But there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain on it” (Isaiah 5:5-7 New King James Version).
Christians should be fruitful
The fig trees and the vineyard are just metaphors for the children of God, Christians. Isaiah 5:7 underscores this truth very clearly. “For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help” (New King James Version).
So Jesus, in His parable, was not just talking about a physical fig tree, neither was God speaking about a literal vineyard. The subject matter was God’s people. God expects His children not to be like the barren tree or the bad tree that bore bad fruits.
What does fruitfulness mean with regard to Christians? The Dictionary of Bible Themes says fruitfulness is used by Scriptures as a symbol of spiritual maturity and well-being. Fruitfulness means living a godly life, living a life that manifests the attributes of God, His character.
The fig tree in Matthew 21:18-19 looked good but when Jesus got to it, it had only leaves but no fruit. The Bible says by their fruits you shall know them (Matthew 7:16, 20). God does not want His children to just look good, but to bear good fruits. To look good without bearing fruits is to be like that fig tree that had leaves but no fruit. What people eat and Jesus expected on the fig tree were fruits. That was why He cursed the fig tree. Christians who merely look good without having the character or attributes of God are like the fig tree with leaves but no fruit. That is there is no godliness in such Christians.
Micah lamented the dearth of godly people in his days. “What misery is mine! I feel like the fruit picker after the harvest who can find nothing to eat. Not a cluster of grapes or a single fig can be found to satisfy my hunger. The godly people have all disappeared; not one fair-minded person is left on the earth. They are all murderers, even setting traps for their own brothers. They go about their evil deeds with both hands. How skilled they are at using them! Officials and judges alike demand bribes. The people with money and influence pay them off, and together they scheme to twist justice. Even the best of them is like a brier; the straightest is more crooked than a hedge of thorns. But your judgment day is coming swiftly now. Your time of punishment is here” (Micah 7:1–4 New Living Translation). Such godless people will not escape the punishment of God despite the fact that they claim to be children of God.
Fruitfulness: Beyond church membership
Fruitfulness means uprightness. That is the life God wants you and me to live after giving our lives to Jesus. God is looking for fruits in your life, not just church membership! John the Baptist told the Pharisees and Sadducees who were coming to him for baptism, “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones” (Matthew 3:8-9 New King James Version). Luke 3:8 says the same thing.
Paul was also so much concerned about the fruitfulness of the Colossians that it was part of his prayer for them. “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9-10 New King James Version). Did you see that? – “Being fruitful in every good work.”
God expects each of His children to be fruitful, and not be satisfied with going to church, holding offices in church only. He expects the fruit of the Spirit, which encompasses the attributes and character of God, to be produced in the life of each believer.
Do you have the fruit of the Spirit?
I always consider the fruit of the Spirit as ‘nine-sided.’ The singular word “fruit” is used in all the Bible translations I have read, and not the plural. That means all the virtues mentioned, and not one or some should manifest in each believer. “But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law” (Galatians 5:22-23 New Living Translation).
A child of God who has these attributes in his life is one that can be regarded as being fruitful. Without these attributes in a Christian’s life, there is no way he can truly say he is a mature child of God. The question to ask such a person is: “Which God?” This is because such a Christian will not resemble the God of the Bible! Therefore, such a Christian will be wrong to call Him his or her Father. If he or she is truly God’s child, he or she should look like Him. The fruit of the Spirit describes the character of God that every child of God should yield himself to the Holy Spirit to produce in his or her life.
Ephesians 5:8-11 also speaks on the fruit of the Spirit. It’s not negotiable for anyone who says he or she is a child of God. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:8-11 New King James Version). Do you have these attributes in your life?
Abide in Him
In John 15, Jesus calls Himself the vine and the believers the branches. He expects the branches to bear fruit and any branch that doesn’t abide in Him, and therefore cannot bear fruit, shall be cut away and burnt. That is death. The same judgment as I mentioned before. But any branch that bears fruit shall be pruned so that it can bear more fruit. God’s expectation is not that we bear bad fruit or no fruit, but that we bear much fruit. “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-3 New King James Version).
Your fruitfulness will be determined by the extent to which you remain in Christ, obeying his word. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (verses 4-5). For you to be fruitful, His word must remain in you and you must remain in His Word.
The Word of God you hear and read should not be in vain; it should bear fruit in your life. The Word of God should translate to upright conduct, a godly character in you. And before it can bear good fruit in your life, you need to keep the Word in your heart like the seed that fell on the good soil in Jesus’ parable. “Now the parable is this: The seed is the Word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:11-15 New King James Version).
Take note of what the noble and good heart does to the word that it receives. It hears the word, keeps the word, and bears fruit with patience.
No wonder the psalmist said, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11 New King James Version). You should be able to say the same too if you’re going to bear fruit and indeed bear more fruit.
Conclusion: I pray that you will not just be a nominal Christian or merely answer an ecclesiastical title. Indeed, I pray that you’ll not hear the Word of God for hearing sake or read the Word of God for reading sake, but you’ll allow the Holy Spirit to control your life to produce the character of God, the fruit of the Spirit.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The LORD be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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